If you work the night shift and believe you’re not getting a good amount of sleep when you do sleep, you’re probably right.
A study by the University of Iowa on how the sleep habits of police officers affected their health found that those officers who slept fewer than six hours a night were more susceptible to such chronic health and fatigue problems such as being overweight/obese and having diabetes and heart disease.
Eighty-five male officers from three different Iowa police departments aged 22 to 63 were surveyed. Those surveyed were split evenly between those working day shifts and others working evening or night shifts. Most worked an average of 46 hours a week
What was telling was that those officers who worked the second or third shifts were more likely to get fewer than six hours of sleep and those who got such little sleep were two times as likely to have poor quality sleep.
Researchers found that those officers who worked the evening or night shifts were 14 times more likely to have sleep that was less restful than those officers on the day shift. In addition, officers who worked the 2nd and 3rd shifts also were more likely to work shifts back-to-back, thus adding to their lack of quality sleep.
Researchers added that this lack of sleep is troubling because, in addition to the health issues listed above, poor sleep quality can lead to additional health problems.
The study on police officers and their quality of sleep (or lack of it), can easily be extrapolated to any other individual who routinely works second or third shifts.
If you work second or third shift, here are some tips to help you get the rest you need and to help you avoid what is known as Shift Work Disorder.
- If at all possible, vary your shift routine so that you’re not constantly working the night shift.
- If that’s not possible, avoid rotating your shifts frequently and, in case that’s not possible, try to rotate your shift from day to evening to night shift, rather than the reverse.
- Aim to work as close to home as possible so that your commute won’t cut into your sleep time.
- While at work, keep your workspace brightly lit to maximize your alertness.
- Watch the amount of caffeine your drink. Try to limit your consumption to just one cup of coffee at the start of your shift.
- Since you’ll be coming home in daylight, wear sunglasses in order to help you transition to fall asleep. Wear a hat also to shield your eyes from sunlight.
- If you live with others, ask them to keep phone calls and visitors to you home to a minimum during your sleep hours.
- Invest in heavy curtains or even blackout blinds to block sunlight.
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